Thursday, May 22, 2008

Daisy Chain



Above is a picture of some connections I made between various artists, either by one artist referring me to another, or things I came upon from research of artist generated leads. I found strong thematic and conceptual connections between artists who came to me from disparate sources.

One over arching commonality between these artists, writers and organizations is an implicit challenge to the primacy of institutionally generated knowledge. By this I mean they challenge the assumption that information must be mediated by received science, or some other institutional body (or method) in order to create meaning.

Another common thread is an interdisciplinary approach. In addition to artistic skill, these artists all draw selectively on biology, archeology, sociology, technology, journalism, or history in the creation of their projects. None I talked to called themselves "social practice" artists, neither did they reject that label-as long as it was one among many.
All seemed uninterested, at best, in labeling their practices.

I note that all the projects I have looked at are time based, however I think there is something more specifically defining about them than that. All these projects deal with living things in ways that are cognizant of and, dependent on, the dynamics of change in one way or another. Whether you look at Mark Dion's Vivarium, or Anna Callahan's Irish Stories project; the time based element is intrinsic to the work.

This observation can be unpacked to include what is to me one of the most interesting issues addressed in my interviews and research; namely activism. If (as some claim) there is an element of activism, or pedagogy in these artist's works, then where does the work end? For example, I have planted an “edible estate” in my front yard, inspired by Fritz Haeg's work. He has moved on to Animal Estates now; is my front garden a continuation of his earlier work? My point being that even with a project that appears to be finite in time; if there is an educational or activist intent that becomes manifest then the work becomes time based in an extended way.*(see read more below)

Another extension stemming from the idea that all these artists are working with living things is the idea that social systems (communities and interpersonal relationships), even histories are also living things. Which puts for me a new slant on my own definition of social practice.

I've participated in discussions around social practice where one idea of a criteria would be collaboration with the public as a medium. I'm wondering for my self if “collaboration with dynamic entities as a medium” wouldn't be more apt. I say this because I think it implies more strongly a lack of control. I have discovered though this research my own proclivity to appreciate most, projects that do not presume specific out comes. This could be more simply put as I admire work that is open ended.

I began this research with the question of context, what context do these artists put them selves in? As it turns out my daisy chain method for this research is a microcosmic link in a larger chain. I now realize that what I want to understand more than context is process and resulting aesthetic. I want to understand how people I admire translate their varied motivations and interests into work. I am now aware that aesthetics (for me) are best an organic result of process, rather than the other way around.

Here is a list of the names on this chart, each is followed with a link.
Andrea Bowers LINK
Suzanne Lacey LINK
Anna Callahan LINK
Community Art Lab LINK
Augusto Boal LINK
Theater of the Oppressed LINK
Fritz Haeg LINK
Chip Lord LINK
Jeremy Deller LINK
Richard Reynolds LINK
Dave McKenzie LINK
Pierre Bourdieu LINK
Mark Dion LINK



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Monday, May 19, 2008

Anna Callahan

I heard about Anna Callahan's "Encyclopedia of Danville" project from Harrell Fletcher. That was my first encounter. I started looking into her further and found her website. In exploring her other projects I learned that she and I share a strong interest in other people and their un-mediated knowledge.

Anna agreed to meet with me and let me record our conversation. She shared a lot of wisdom (she might cringe at me calling it that) with me about her process. I hope you will benefit from this short interview as much as I did. (I strongly suggest you check out her website before watching the video.)
video
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